|Beyond Images - Briefing 5
||Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict
CHECKPOINTS AND ISRAEL'S SECURITY FENCE: Barriers To Peace….
Or Barriers To Terror?
|London - published Friday 26 July 2002
policy of maintaining roadblocks and checkpoints is making
life impossible for the Palestinians. Now Israel is also
building a security fence, which excludes the West Bank
Palestinians and represents nothing less than apartheid.
Physical Barriers Against Suicide Bombers
• Suicide bombers have been murdering Israeli civilians
since 1994. There have been over 10,000 violent incidents since
October 2000, in which 580 Israeli men, women and children have
been killed - in bombings, drive-by shootings, machine-gun attacks
and other acts of terror.
• The attackers have almost always come from West Bank
Palestinian towns and villages, and are usually members of either
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, or the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
• The attacks have occurred both when the peace process
was at its height, and when it was collapsing.
• Since the mid-1990s, Israel has used military roadblocks
and checkpoints on roads which lead out of the Palestinian-controlled
territories in order to intercept possible terrorists, and reduce
the number of atrocities. The attacks almost always reduce in
number when these measures are in place, but intensify as soon
as the measures are lifted.
• While Israelis do not naïvely assume that Israel
can be completely sealed against terrorism, roadblocks and closures
have lowered the number of Israeli casualties very significantly.
• According to Israel's Defence Minister, over 80% of
Palestinian attacks are intercepted or otherwise "fail".
• Since October 2000, Palestinian terrorism has reached
a much higher level of intensity from its level in the 1990s.
Israel has established semi-permanent checkpoints and roadblocks
in many locations in the West Bank, and leading out of the Gaza
Strip, in order to defend its citizens.
• Suicide bombers have on many occasions been stopped
at these checkpoints. Bomb belts have been seized which were
ready for use (including in one instance hidden inside a Red
The Disruption of Daily Life and Economic Activity
• Of course these checkpoints disrupt the freedom of movement
of Palestinian civilians. They result in delays to men, women
and children, who have to wait to pass through, often in extreme
heat. Palestinians take longer to get to work, or to reach hospital,
university or school. The measures have also made it harder
for Palestinian society to lift itself out of its disastrous
• But if there was no terrorist threat, Israel would have
no reason to maintain these checkpoints, and these effects would
not be felt.
• Most Israelis reject the argument that the restrictions
on Palestinian movement should be abandoned because they just
breed frustration and cause more terrorist attacks.
• Quite the opposite, they say. The terrorism has been
just as intense when Israel has been making political concessions
and relaxing its security guard. The declared aim of the terrorist
groups is to destroy Israel - and no political concessions can
address the threat which they pose. Only physical protection
and self-defence can be effective.
• Additionally, it is not only the Palestinians whose
everyday lives have been "disrupted" by the upsurge
of violence. Israelis too have been “disrupted”.
Israeli daily life has been thrown into turmoil, as civilians
find ways of reducing the danger of being attacked. The economy
has been severely damaged by the intensified conflict.
The Treatment of Palestinians at Checkpoints
• Palestinian spokesmen complain of the "humiliating"
treatment of Palestinians going through Israeli checkpoints.
• But, by their own admission, any Palestinian - man or
woman - going through these checkpoints could be a "walking
• It is therefore hardly surprising that Israeli border
police and soldiers are wary towards them. Many Israeli soldiers
have been killed by bombers or car bombs at checkpoints, including
by Palestinians who posed as harmless, came with striking distance
and then blew themselves up.
Israel's Security Fence
• The security fence which Israel is building to "fence"
off most of the West Bank from Israel is a more permanent barrier
to suicide bomb attacks and infiltrations.
• Its creation is the result of sustained Palestinian
terror. If that terror stopped, there would be no rationale
for the fence. Political support for it within Israel would
• The fence is designed with patrol roads on either side
and sophisticated monitoring technology to detect infiltrators.
Such a fence was erected around the Gaza Strip in the 1990s.
This is largely why there have been no suicide attacks into
Israel from Gaza.
• The claim that Israel's fence results in "apartheid"
has no basis. Thousands of Jews, living in settlements, will
find themselves on the "wrong" side of the fence.
The fence has no legal impact on the rights of Israel Arabs
or Jews. But the physical separation which the fence achieves
has been forced on Israel by its overriding obligation to protect
its citizens from being killed.
Support for the fence from the Israeli left
• Support for the fence within Israel is very widespread.
Typical is the following:-